vendredi 30 mars 2012

Beach, BBQ and camping at Gracetown.

With Tony, Matt, Remi and Mathilde.

Just before midday, we all met up at Margaret River and headed off towards Gracetown with our 3 camper vans.

First stop was the campsite. We took ages trying to figure out how to park the 3 vans all in the shade but all close to each other. In the end we found the perfect place for each van. All this manoeuvring was in fact useless because we had to take two of the vans to go to the beach. 
Our van stayed at the campsite because we had pull out the ‘extension’ (first time we had tried it, and we were rather pleased with it!)

At the beach we found the perfect spot, behind some big rocks that we had to clamber over, sheltered from the wind.

We had a great afternoon. Swimming and snorkelling in the sea (no waves so no surfing unfortunately), tanning on the beach, chatting… 
The guys tried fishing, but had no luck (even though we had seen loads of fish when snorkelling). We wouldn’t be eating fish that night!

That evening we went back to the campsite and had a delicious barbecue. Grilled beef! Scrumptious! I hadn’t had beef to eat for ages!

A mini legend about Gracetown (told to us by Shawn the crazy old surfer).

A long long time ago, some terrible things happened in Gracetown. Two Aboriginal tribes, one from the forests and the other from the coast, apparently had a fight here. Nobody knows exactly what happened, nor which tribe won, but many think that at this time a curse was cast on Gracetown. A curse that still goes on today. Many strange things happen in this town. For example; many women have pregnancy problems.

Not long ago a terrible and horrifying accident happened in Gracetown. There was a surf competition down on the beach. A lot of people had gone there, either to watch or participate. It was during this competition that the horrible accident happened. Part of the cliff crumbled and fell on the beach, crushing and sadly killing a dozen people and children. Today, little white crosses can be seen on the beach where the accident happened.

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Meeting a crazy old surfer and a good mechanic


We were up at dawn after having spent the night on a car park in Margaret River. We decided that it would be nice to have breakfast by the sea, so headed off towards the beach where we had had dinner in the evening.

All along the coast around Margaret river is completely burnt. Apparently, a couple of months ago, the Rangers wanted to do what they call a ‘preventive’ fire (which means setting an area on fire, and of course keeping it under control. Once burn, a wildfire will not start.)
Unfortunately, this fire got out of control. Now about 20km along the coast is completely burnt. Everything is charcoaled. When you see it, it gives you a sort of sad eerie feeling.

Anyway, on the road towards the beach we somehow made a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up on a different beach.
There was a big car park, toilets… everything that we needed. We decided to have breakfast there.
There were already a few cars; mainly surfers come for an early surfing session. We parked the van at the very end of the car park, away from the other vehicles, to have breakfast in peace and quiet.
Hardly a couple of minutes later, a car come and parks right next to our van. The driver, an oldish looking guy with a big bushy grey beard and longish tangled hair, gets out and sits down on his cars bonnet. Dressed in bathing shorts and an old hoodie (and wearing no shorts) he seemed to be watching the surfers out at sea waiting patiently for a wave (a wave that never came, the sea was very calm that morning, strange for this well known surfing area).

All of a sudden we got the horrible feeling that someone was watching us. And someone was. The old guy was staring at us, with insistence. This made us really uncomfortable, plus he did look rather crazy and scary! Orianne who was only wearing a short skirt even decided to go and put some shorts on instead. He really was freaking us out just sitting there on his car staring.

Several very long minutes later, he spoke. He asked where we were from. This was the beginning of a very long (interesting and weird) conversation.
His name was Shawn, was around 40 years old (he looked much older), was a god surfer and had lived several years in the bush (this explained his crazy looks and why he had ‘problems interacting and being sociable with people’).

We chatted about lots of different things. Surfing, nature, pollution, war, religion, Australia… rather serious subjects, but boy did we laugh! Especially when we imitated a Kookaburra (a bird that makes a loud, kind of haunting, laughing noise). Sadly, he had hit one with his car that morning, and was rather upset about it.
He also told us about Gracetown, where we were heading that afternoon. Apparently the place is cursed (I’ll tell you more about that in the next post).

While chatting to Shawn, another van pulled up next to us. Another Australian surfer, also in his 40ies, who had come to do some work on his van.
The old surfer left shortly afterwards, and we started chatting with Dan. He was a really nice guy and really helped us out. He recharged our extra batteries with his generator, screwed the battery plate under the driver seat back on, and had a look to see if he could repair one of our windows that wouldn’t roll back up properly.

After these two fun and nice encounters, it was time for us to leave and meet up with the guys to head off to Gracetown.

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Margaret River


(277km from Perth; population: 10 000)

Margaret River is situated on the banks of the Margaret River approximately 10km from the ocean.
Situated where lush forest meets the headwinds coming off the ocean, Margaret River, or Marg’s as it’s affectionately called, has a huge variety of things to do and see.

The development of Margaret River can be attributed to the Group Settlement Scheme of the 1920s, when some 100 settlers found themselves setting up industries with the assistance of the Government Scheme.
Today the town rests in the heart of the state’s largest premium wine producing region. This, combined with the stunning natural surroundings, supports a thriving tourism industry attracting visitors from all over the world.

The waves to be found in the Margaret River region have also proved themselves world class. This stretch of coastline has played host to a number of major international surfing competitions that attract the world’s best surfers.

It is here in Margaret River that we met up with Tony and Matt (friends from France) who were working as grape pickers.
We met up in the town centre and then headed off to the coast for dinner.
The sunset was magnificent. Every few minutes or so, the colours would change, going from, gold to all different tints of orange and red.
After a good meal and nice chat, it was time for bed (the guys had to be up really early for work). We spent the night on a car park in the town centre. Not a very nice spot for camping, but at least we were hidden from the Rangers.

At the moment in Marg’s, there seems to be a war against backpacks going on. Being a wine area, there are lots of fruit picking jobs. These jobs attract loads of backpackers. The problem is, there isn’t anywhere for these backpackers to stay. The local campsites are way to pricy, or full, so backpackers tend to camp illegally.
Apparently there have been some problems such as littering and noise at night. So for the last couple of weeks, the Rangers have been busy ‘hunting down’ and giving fines to all the ‘illegal campers’. They even had posts in the local newspaper about it!

Lucky for us, we won’t be staying long in Margaret River…

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Cape Naturaliste


During our drive down south towards Margaret River we stopped to have a break at Cape Naturaliste.

After lunch we went for a little walk (1,3km) along a trail along the coast. The trail was really sandy and rocky. I was really glad I wore my walking shoes; no idea how Orianne managed to walk in flip-flops!
The sun was shining, it was lovely and warm. The plants and trees were a lovely mix of greens and browns; a nice contrast against the dark blue sea and white sand.
Sadly, there are no wild flowers at this time of year. It as also not the right time to see humpback whales, migrate here between September and December.

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Preston Beach

The area around Preston Beach became renowned in the early fifties as a great pot for fishing. In 1955 a Waroona syndicate purchased the original parcel of land with a draw for the first 58 blocks held in April 1957. The causeway, built in 1956 and introduction of electricity in 1973, allowed development resulting in the seaside haven of today.

16/02/12: Meeting Wallabies

We’ve started heading down south towards Margaret River. When night started to fall, we stopped at Preston Beach, and found a nice little car park next to the beach to spend the night.
You mustn’t drive around dusk or dawn here; that’s when all the wildlife come out. It gets very dangerous; the risk of hitting a kangaroo or some other big animal is very high.
We went for a walk along the beach and watched the sun set.

When we came back to our van, we had a beautiful surprise. There we little wallabies all around on the grass! They had obviously come out to eat!
They weren’t scared of us; actually they didn’t seem to care!
It was so great that on our second night sleeping in the van we got to see so, Australian wildlife up close.

(Another great thing was that we were able to spend the night without being disturbed. It is illegal to camp on these kinds of car parks and day picnic areas. If the Rangers catch you, either they just tell you to leave or give you a pricy fine!)

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